Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a technology non-profit organization, is on track to change the image of what a computer programmer looks like and does and to close the gender gap in new, entry-level tech jobs by 2027. In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women, today, it’s only 24% and her non-profit organization is leading a movement to inspire, educate and equip young women with computing skills.
Girls Who Code has reached 500 million people through their online resources, campaigns, books, and advocacy work around the world and their programs have served 300 000 girls around the world since 2012. It has reached girls across the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom and was awarded Most Innovative Non-Profit by Fast Company in 2019.
Reshma is the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect, New York Times bestseller Girls Who Code, Women Who Don't Wait in Line, Lead the Way and is the host of the award-winning podcast Brave, Not Perfect. Her TED talk ‘Teach girls, bravery not perfection’ has over four million views and has sparked a worldwide conversation about how girls are being raised.
“Girls Who Code implements data-driven solutions to address the gender gap in technology and our policy agenda outlines four recommendations designed to increase girls participation in computer science. We track and report data on computer science participation, expand computer science courses to middle schools, increase exposure to women and underrepresented minorities in technology and fund gender inclusion training within professional development,” says the founder.
Girls Who Code has over 8500 programs worldwide including a Summer Immersion Program, Campus Program, after school Clubs and a best-selling book series. The non-profit organization is growing fast and their alumni are choosing to major in computer science or related fields at a rate 15 times the national average.
“We have created free lesson plans featuring women in tech for teachers to use wherever they fit into the school day from math to history to computer science. Using our lesson plans, students can explore the hidden history of women in tech and uncover how to think like a computer scientist,” says the founder.
Girls Who Code works with state policymakers on legislative solutions to close the gender gap in K-12 computer science classrooms. They have worked with state governments to pass legislation in Kentucky, Indiana, Washington State and Colorado, as well as made policy changes in Florida and Utah.
Their team believes that being brave is about being resilient, persistent and ambitious and we prepare our girls to enter the workforce and lead, improve and totally transform it. They value diversity, equity and inclusion as essential to their mission with half of their girls served coming from historically underrepresented groups including girls who are Black, Latinx, and from low-income households.
Reshma also serves on the Board of Overseers for the International Rescue Committee which provides aid to refugees and those impacted by humanitarian crises and as an ex-officio Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois where she majored in Political Science and Speech Communication, received her Master of Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1999 and her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 2002.
The founder began her career as an attorney and activist and was the first Indian-American woman and the first South Asian American woman to run for US Congress. She ran as a Democratic candidate for New York City Public Advocate in 2013, coming third in the primary and during the race visited local schools where she saw the gender gap in computing classes first hand, which led her to start Girls Who Code.
Reshma’s work on behalf of young women has earned her broad recognition on lists including Fortune World’s Greatest Leaders; Fortune 40 Under 40; WSJ Magazine Innovator of the Year; Forbes Most Powerful Women Changing the World; and Fast Company 100 Most Creative People. She is also the winner of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.